How to Name Your Company

Scenario: "Dude, we're selling bikes so we gotta name ourselves Bicycles-4-You. Yay!" Pop-quiz! Say you're starting a bicycle shop. What corporate name makes the most business sense? * a) Bicycles-4-You * b) Jamoka If you chose (b), Ding! Ding! Ding! Correct-o-mundo-mutha-badass. If you're selling just bikes, "Bicycle-4-You" fits fine. But, what if your badass is trying to expand the business -- so you start selling scooters? * Or, tricycles? * Or, Canondale clothing? * Or, triathlon gear? * Or, baby seats? * Or, helmets? "Bicycle" as a company name won't capture your entire product line. Naming your company from a product drives away fresh prospects interested in other stuff.

How Umbrella Names Rock

"Jamoka" above rocks because it keeps people focused on the breadth of your offerings -- acting as an umbrella name. And, if you ever decide to dump your core/original product (bicycle) -- like how Walgreen's did it with ice cream -- you'll still have a relevant name. (See any corporate names with "8-Track" attached to it?) Keep in mind: All products fail/become-unprofitable. Umbrella names then lets your company stand the test of time -- no matter what market conditions dictate.

"But what if my umbrella name confuses people?"

It's the most common question asked, and it's why people still go with product-names-as-company-names. Here's our 2-cent solution: Slap a tagline on the sucka. That's what eBay did (""Whatever it is, you can get it on eBay."), and Amazon: "Earth's Biggest Bookstore" when they started. And for a fresher one, YouTube still uses theirs ("Broadcast Yourself.") The sweet thing with taglines involves its adaptability: As you provide different services/products, you can adapt your tagline to capture what you sell. And when your company attains celebrity status, you won't need that tagline anymore. So how do you find a sweet umbrella name for your company? Four steps we recommend:

4 Steps to Naming Your Company

  • Step 1: Coin Your Company Name

    If you presented people with two names: (1) Thriving Software, and (2) Thrivati, people would overwhelmingly prefer the latter. People see unexpected names as puzzles, subconsciously compelling them to learn more about your offerings, according to one kick-booty study:
    Names such as Kermit green (unexpected descriptive) are effective because these names act as a sort of puzzle to be solved, which spurs individuals to consider more aspects of the products - particularly the positive ones. In addition, solving this small puzzle should create positive emotions associated with the product.
    Positive, juicy-good effects with a coined name? "Tell me it ain't so!" You-betcha-badass. Coined name: check. Next Step:
  • Step 2: Harden Your Company Name

    Mamimo vs. Gaboogle. Do this. Go up to somebody and say this sweet thang:
    1. "Mamimo. Gaboogle."
    2. "Now, can your badass repeat those two names?"
    What happens? Likely something similar:
    1. "Well, I know Gaboogle was the second one."
    2. "What in the mutha-^@^^^& was the first one?"
    3. "Manimal?"
    Humans pick-up hard sounds much quicker because it's easily digestible. That's how Google makes its name memorable with the hard-sounding Ggg, Kinko's doing it with the hard K's, and Blackberry doing it with the hard Bbb. Hard-sounding words make your name so-much-freakin'-easier-to-pronounce. How does that help you?
    1. More referrals with greater recall.
    2. Positive associations with an easy-to-utter name.
    Harden name: check. Next Step:
  • Step 3: Check Your Company Name

    With your hardened-coined-sexy name, type the sucka in Google. If your name doesn't mean/sound/seem/resemble something horrible in another language, and it doesn't infringe on any copyrights/trademarks/blah-blah, you got yourself something good going. (You might want to get a professional here just to be sure.) Congrats-to-yo-badass. Check your name: check. Next step:
  • Step 4: Move the Heck On

    If some dude came up to you in 1998 and told you he named his company "Google", you'd probably kick him in the ass. Names, folks, are overrated. So, don't get too caught up in the process. Pringles had their name in 5 minutes. We got "Trizzy" in much less. The magnificently more important thing: Start rocking the world by building your business. That's where you should place all your time, effort, and dedication. (It'll make you sexier too.)

"Wait. Wait. Wait! What if I already named my name long ago?"

No sweat. You have three sweet options:

  1. Stick with what you have.

    If you're thriving with your name, as the saying goes: Don't fix something that ain't broken.
  2. Trick-out your name so it's less generic.

    You'd be surprised at the different variations you could pull off. We recommend doing this sucka if you named your company after a product. Here's some inspiration from those high-flyers who modified their names to better reflect what they "don't-just-do":
    • Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing? 3M.
    • Federal Express? FedEx.
    • Kentucky Fried Chicken? KFC.
    • International Business Machines? IBM.
    • Apple Computer? Apple, Inc.
  3. Do something new.

    Altria used to be Philip Morris. They're still kicking Wall Street butt. Your customers will react positively to your name change -- provided you're providing good services to them. And if you want to lure in prospects who know you through the old name, do the gradual shift in naming-changing: Stick with the old name, and then as you have them as a customer, present the new name. As always when you're deciding on your new name, we recommend the coined-hard-sounding-sexy names.

Good luck!

Coined, hard-sounding, sexy names rock.


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Posted on January 11

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